Homes not Bombs

Because Canada should build homes, not blow them up

PO Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. West

Toronto, ON M6C 1C0

(416) 651-5800,


February 2, 2004



Dear Mayor Miller,

We would like to formally congratulate you on becoming mayor and hope that your proposals to clean up the city and make it a more livable place sail through council.

Our letter is to remind you of some business left over from the last council, and one which we feel you are uniquely positioned to bring to a just conclusion, especially given the good working relationship you have established with the federal government over the issues of the Island Airport Bridge and the recent opening of Fort York Armoury as an emergency shelter.

At last June's council meeting, the following motion was passed by council, with former Mayor Mel Lastman writing to the federal government a few short weeks afterwards:


"the mayor be requested to write on behalf of the city to the minister of defence, the minister responsible for CMHC and the minister responsible for homelessness requesting that Moss Park Armoury be declared surplus and that the site be allocated for affordable housing and other purposes;

city staff be directed to meet with federal government officials to facilitate the opportunity to develop the site for affordable housing and other purposes;

the commissioner of community and neighbourhood services be directed to report to the first meeting of the community services committee of the new council on the status of this initiative together with appropriate recommendations."

This motion was part of our ongoing, two-year campaign to have Moss Park Armoury at Queen and Jarvis declared surplus, handed over to the city, and turned into non-profit, affordable housing.

As part of this campaign, we commissioned architects to explore the possibility of using the current structure as the basis for provision of enough units to house 375 people, along with a childcare space and community kitchen. We have consulted with St. Brigid's Housing Society, a non-profit organization which, like its successful sister organization St. Clare's Multifaith Housing Society, is uniquely positioned to provide affordable housing (as was done with the recent completion of 61 units in phase one of 25 Leonard Ave. in Kensington Market, now currently undergoing expansion).

We hope you will be able to use your good working relationship with Paul Martin and the federal government to help move this process along at the federal level. With the support of local councillor Kyle Rae, federal NDP leader Jack Layton, and numerous local organizations and individuals including Street Health, Foodshare, former alderperson Don Heap, housing campaigner Cathy Crowe, housing policy analyst Michael Shapcott, and David Walsh of Realco, we now need Ottawa to take a giant leap and turn the building over to the city.

You will likely be told by federal bureaucrats, as they have told us, that they need the building for homeland security and overseas training. But this is a misperception from the military's headquarters in Ottawa, and not based on the reality we have consistently seen on the ground here in Toronto. Indeed, every Tuesday for the past 21 months, including last Tuesday night's blustery storm, we have held a vigil there, and the building is virtually empty.

Our monitoring of the facility has taken place on other days and evenings as well, with similar results. The only time we have seen large numbers there was during the Pope's visit, but the pilgrims who slept there were not using the building to defend Canada's national security.

Granted, there are, occasionally, members of a marching band and young cadets who use the facility, but these are activities not intimately linked to the building itself. On Fridays, members of various units "parade," but again, this is an activity which is not uniquely linked to the location, other than by inertia. All are activities which could be performed in high school gyms or at CFB Downsview.

Our discussions with military officials who work at Moss Park, with cadets, and with family members of units who call Moss Park their home base, tell us that most training is done off the site anyway, since the building, by DND's own admission, is incapable of meeting the needs of a modern military. Most days, the cavernous space is empty save for administrators who could just as easily perform their functions at the newly consolidated $40 million-plus CFB Downsview facility.

We are writing then to ask that, as requested by the last City Council, you do everything in your power to ensure that Moss Park, for years rumoured to be on its last legs anyway, finally be turned over to the city for non-profit housing. Based on our own estimates of potential units, we believe this site alone could house the kind of numbers which would represent upwards of 10% of the current shelter population, thus relieving pressure on the city from one of its greatest human and financial crunches.

As you know, Moss Park Armoury is located in an economically depressed area of the city which is crying out for real, safe and secure housing for its residents, and not the illusion of military security at home and abroad.

And so it is there that we continue our weekly Tuesday vigils, handing out clothing and distributing food and TTC tickets to the homeless and low-income folks who continue to fall through the cracks. Many of them, as well as more well-to-do residents, have signed petitions and agreed with us that it's time to turn Moss Park Armoury into a non-profit housing community. We hope you will help us make this dream a reality.

To discuss this further, give us a call at (416) 651-5800 and we'd be happy to meet with you.



Matthew Behrens

Elizabeth Bloch

Kevin Brussel

Sheila File

Helen Gough

Alice Heap

Don Heap

David McKee

Richard Moore

Maggie Panter

Ron Panter

Anna Przychodzki

Diana Rogers

Margaret Rao

(for Homes not Bombs)

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